Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas is coming....

I can't believe how quickly time is going.  Today is already the fourth Sunday of Advent.. so light the third purple candle.. the final candle on the Advent wreath.

Though I've had my Christmas decorations up for a while, I have not been in the Christmas spirit.  Working retail one is bombarded with negative people.. yelling and fighting over items being in stock, their orders not in on time, etc.  I come home exhausted and find myself waiting for the season to be over.

This is not to say I'm anti-Christmas.  On the contrary.. I am very much looking forward to the celebration of Christmas morning Mass... the ringing of the bells at the return of the Gloria being sung once again.  I'm just over the whole commercial aspect of the holiday.  Trees are great.. gifts are great.. but when people forget the humble origins of Christmas, the holiday becomes nothing more than an excuse to go into debt.

I have included a picture of my modest Christmas tree.  I didn't have the desire or energy to drag out my usual artificial tree (real trees are too expensive for me) -- assemble it, decorate it.. and eventually pack the whole thing up.  I went out in search of an easy tree.

I found the perfect "Charlie Brown" tree at a local nursery.  I always loved the sparse trees that no one else could possible love.  So when I saw this 5 1/2 odd ball, I had to take it home.  The sales lady was a bit surprised... she had no idea what someone would do with such a tree.

Once decorated, like Charlie Brown's little tree.. it looks quite nice.  I love how the ornaments really stand out.. and believe it or not, it holds ALL the ornaments I put on my fat 7ft tree. - AND, it only take two minutes to assemble and disassemble.  No fuss tree!

For those who are fans of Victorian style Christmases, you will recognize this tree as a "feather tree".. the first style of artificial trees available.. originally made out of goose feathers on wooden dowels. Other people though may think of the line from the famous "Christmas Story" movie:  "It looks like it was made of... green pipe cleaner!".  My favorite comment came from my godson Gavin, who when seeing the picture of facebook said it looks like a twig.  So there it is, my Christmas "twig".

You may note the nativity set - it belonged to my Grandparents.  They purchased it their first Christmas together back in 1953, and it was under their tree ever since.  I am a strict believer though that baby Jesus does not get put into the crib until Christmas morning.  In a time when Christmas decorations go up in November, I think it's important to remember that the real joy of Christmas comes when we mark the birth of the Word made Flesh.

While I try to keep up with my baking and finish my shopping.. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas -- and want you to remember that despite the glitz and glamour this holiday may offer... it all started with a poor child born in a stable... laid to rest where animals feed.  "Keep Christ in Christmas!"  :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gaudete!

Today is the third Sunday of Advent - also known as Gaudete Sunday.  It is named after the first word of today's Intoit prayer: Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete: modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus prope est. (Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.  Philippians 4:4-5).  


Today is one of two days in the year where the color of the vestments used at Mass may be Rose colored.  Note I said rose and not pink.  The idea of using Rose vestments is to show on this Sunday the excitement we feel in our hearts at the coming of the Lord.  As it says in the words of the Introit, we Rejoice in the Lord always.  Rose is a color between the Advent color of purple (penance and waiting) and the Christmas color of white.. a sign that our waiting is almost at an end.  We know the Lord is coming.


As the color of the candles on our Advent wreath reflect the liturgical colors of the season, we light the rose colored candle today.  Some people mistakenly light the rose colored candle on the last Sunday of Advent... now you are in the know and can correct such Liturgical faux pas.  :)




Like many of you, I have been busy writing out and sending Christmas cards.  I enjoy this practice, except for the high cost of stamps.  I look forward to sending and receiving cards and the small notes and letters that sometimes accompany them.  They also make for great decorations!


I've noticed a trend though among people I have exchanged cards with in the past.  I try to be very sensitive to the beliefs of my family and friends.  I wish my Jewish friends a Happy Hanukkah (even though I am not Jewish), send out Religious Cards to my friends and family who are practicing Christians, and have the secular "holiday" cards for those who are not "religious", but still enjoy a secular version of the holiday season.  After all, my mind set is not to use this holiday to push my beliefs down people's throats -- that would be counter productive.. but to join them in a sense of joy and celebration.


This sentiment has not been reciprocated.


Every year, people still insist on writing within cards or in Facebook messages: "Merry Xmas!".  I do not celebrate "Xmas".. I celebrate Christmas.  I can't stand this abbreviation.  Though it may have started out as a Christian abbreviation for Christmas, using the Greek letter X to represent the first letter in Christ's name (in the old Greek spelling), it has now been used to take Christ out of Christmas, and make it purely a commercial and secular holiday.


My friends know how I feel, and yet they still can't bring themselves to wish me, a practicing Catholic, a Merry CHRISTmas.  Now, when I see "Xmas" written somewhere, I have taken to putting a "P" on top of the "X"... to make the Greek symbol of Christ's name known as the "chi-rho".  


Oh well... I'm still Rejoicing today.. still writing CHRISTmas cards and trying to gear up for the baking that I will soon be doing.   :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Liturgical New Year!

The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new year on the Church's Liturgical calendar.  We light the first candle on the Advent wreath, which counts the number of Sundays until the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas Day). 

There are debates about the origins of the Advent wreath.. some say it is a German Lutheran tradition, some argue a German Catholic tradition.  Personally, it makes no difference to me.  Lutherans share some Liturgical similarities with Catholics, so it would be natural for our two traditions to share this symbol of Advent.

Originally, it is said, the colors of the candles on the wreath were all red.  This practice is still maintained in Germany... and even the Holy Father's Advent wreath used all red candles last year (he being from Bavaria).  It was some time later that the candles of the wreath corresponded to the liturgical colors of the Sundays of Advent to bring an even closer association of the holiday symbols with the Mass.

The first candle that we lit this Sunday corresponds to the Liturgical vestments of purple, the color of penance as well as royalty to welcome the coming of the King.  The purple reminds us to prepare ourselves through prayer and penance to make our souls ready not only for the celebration of the birth of Christ, but His second coming at the end of time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Need a little Christmas NOW!

Work has been getting to me lately.  I've been working at the big W full time and though it helps on pay day, it takes its toll on my nerves.  People are just so nasty and rude... it really wears one down.

So like the song says, "I need a little Christmas now...".  So I decided I would "haul out the holly" and "put up the tree before my spirits fall again."

I do have a full size tree in the sitting room on my TINY - micro apartment within my parent's home, but I had always loved the old aluminum trees from the 1950s and 1960s.  I would never want one as my only tree, but there is just something about them I always liked.

This year, while visiting a local nursery famous for their Christmas decor, I came across a 3ft aluminum style Christmas tree that I went nuts for.  I have seen many silver trees over the years, but they don't have the sparse look of the original style aluminum trees (and yes, they were aluminum.. made out of aluminum foil).  When I saw this little silver gem.. I had to bring it home with me.  I always loved the Charlie Brown trees.

The problem was: where to put it?  It ended up finding a home in my bedroom... where I spend a lot of my time lately at my desk.  I decided to put it up now and decorate it since I needed a little holiday boost.  It turned out rather nice if you ask me... shining in all it's silver glory.


Also, when I got home from work... tired and cranky from a long day in retail Hell... I noticed a red light coming from my sitting room window.  Puzzled, I looked in the window, and there... on the shelf.. was a Santa "head" that I had liked from a recent QVC show selling retro inspired Christmas decorations.  My Mom had bought it for me as a surprise, and left it on a shelf in the sitting room lit up.

Again, it's so odd looking it's cute.  The large sized light bulb nose is so ridiculous it makes me laugh just looking at it.  My Dad and I refer to it as the "red light district Santa" for obvious reasons.

This little surprise made my day!!!

"For I've grown a little leaner (I wish!!!), grown a little colder.. grown a little sadder.. grown a little older. And I need a little angel.. sitting on my shoulder... I need a little Christmas NOW!"

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rainbow Sash Group???

There are groups of protesters advocating for greater acceptance of gays and lesbians in Christian Churches known as "The Rainbow Sash Movement".  Usually, they attempt to receive Communion during a Catholic Mass while wearing a bold rainbow sash - making a political statement and protest during the Mass. (Their focus seems to be aimed primarily at Catholics, though I have seen articles where members have appeared at various other Christian denominational services)

Personally I find this very inappropriate and in poor taste.

For anyone who knows me well or has read this blog, they will tell you I am all about equal rights for gays and lesbians, and it is my constant prayer intention for full inclusion and acceptance within mainstream Christianity one day -- being accepted as children of God as He created us.  That being said, if you have a statement to make, you do not do it during a Mass, Liturgy or Service.  That is just rude and in poor taste.  You not only distract from the focus of the service -- which is to worship GOD (not YOU), but you disrupt the prayers and meditation of the people there.  That is wrong.

Groups like the Human Rights Campaign constantly complain about Churches voicing their opinions about Homosexuality publicly, and scream about the separation of Church and State.  I find it very ironic then, that some members of a group like this would find it appropriate to bring the state into the Church.

It surprises me that grown people in both camps - gay activists AND Church officials can often act like such children -- fighting each other in the school yard.  Neither group is very good at respecting the other despite their different beliefs.  Ever heard of agree to disagree??  How about lead by example?

Church goers could try behaving like Christians and treat others with love - and political activists could respect other people's beliefs and stop trying to force their views upon others.

It breaks my heart to not be fully accepted as a gay Christian in some Churches, but it makes me equally as sad when my fellow brothers and sisters attack the Churches in such ways.  When will either side learn?

Gay Christians can make more of an impact by living the Gospel, being a witness of Christ's love and acceptance, and praying for change more than they will ever make by protesting during a service or Mass.  The protesters that do it just to make a point (and are not "religious") - just stay home and do your work in the civil arena where it belongs.

Soap box speech done.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It Gets Better

Yesterday I joined countless people around the country in wearing purple clothing or a purple ribbon to remember those gay people who have committed suicide due to bullying.  There have been numerous reports in the media of college aged students giving into the hate and discrimination - feeling there is no hope left for them in life - and seeing death as their only solice.

On Tuesday, just before we were to stand up against this type of bullying, another brother, a 19 year old student from Oakland University, succumbed to suicide.

I wanted to share a bit of my own story of struggle growing up as a gay individual in a world that often times seemed so cold and indifferent.

After growing up in a small Catholic grade school (which I loved), I found myself thrown into a sea of chaos at the local public High School.  I wanted so much to continue my education in a Catholic institution, but my parents simply could not afford the high cost of tuition.  So, I went to school at the local High School where my older brother was already a student.  Not having grown up in the local public schools, I knew very few students, as most of my friends had transferred to local Catholic High Schools.

I didn't fit in at all, at least not right away.  Being a freshman is hard enough, but I was seriously over weight, an actual practicing Catholic (which garnered a lot of criticism from the secularistic ideals of the students - and ostracised me from most of the Protestant Christian students), and was also some what shy.

I did my best to fit in, but it seemed like a futile attempt.  I had few friends who knew me, had no idea of what types of clothes to wear (I missed the safety of a uniform), and also struggled internally with the fear that this attraction I had to members of the same sex.. the attraction I had assured myself was just a phase.. would not go away.

High School can be a sea of hormones, young men and women coming to terms with their sexual identities and feelings, and exploring those feelings with one another.  Most kids start pairing up and dating - talking openly about their feelings with each other.  I, like so many other gay and lesbian youth, kept everything bottled up inside.  It was already bad enough to be labeled a "homo" or a "fag" just as a general insult, but what if they found out I really WAS gay?

Eventually, by the end of my freshman year, and certainly into my sophomore year, I began to find my own clique of friends and secure my own identity.  My sense of humor and ability to make other people laugh made for a good defense and safety device.  Keep them laughing and they won't hurt you was how I lived.  It's still a defense mechanism, and has helped me develop into a fine tuned "smart ass" - only now I have discovered I am so good at keeping people at arms length, it is hard to let my guard down and accept them into my life.

It seems kids just know when someone else is different, even if that person doesn't admit it.  I tried dating a girl, but it only lasted a week.  I found it too disturbing and was very uncomfortable with the idea.  It was hard for me to connect with other male students - aside from the awkward attraction I felt towards them, I had little in common with them - not being the least bit interested in sports, or girls.

Then, as now, anything bad was labeled as "gay".  "That's so gay", "he's a homo", "that fag" were all expressions I heard on a daily basis.  It scared the Hell out of me and caused me to bury my feelings further and further inside of me.. hoping they would eventually go away.  Others minorities didn't have to suffer in silence - if a derogatory remark was made against women, blacks, the Eastern European students we had - anyone.. teachers were all over them.  Gay remarks however seemed to pass mostly unnoticed or ignored.  In gym class, I think they were even completely accepted by some of the coaches.

At times the suppression of my feelings, the lack of an outlet to express them, my perceived guilt for being "wrong", "dirty" or "immoral" would come to a peak.  I would plunge into deep depression, not knowing where to go, who to turn to.  I couldn't talk to my pastor, I couldn't tell my parents, my older brother already teased me to no end, school friends would not understand (they might even spread it around).  I felt so damned alone.

I remember so clearly, kneeling next to my bed at night, praying my rosary with such intensity that the beads would leave imprints in my hands and fingers from holding them so tightly.  I prayed that God would take the feeling away from me.. make me "normal".. make me "straight".  This experience contributes to my loathing of the fundamentalist Christian "pray the gay away" "ministries".  Believe me, if all we had to do was ask to be "changed", I asked enough for hundreds of gays and lesbians.

I gradually started to "come out" to close friends and faculty.  They gave me the outlet I needed to unburden myself of the secret that had been burning inside me.  Then (the late 90's) shows like Will and Grace had just started to come into existence, giving gay and lesbian people across the country a small affirmation of themselves on the screen.  I caught the show once in a while.. in secret, when I knew no one would be able to see what I was watching.  It might have provoked them to ask questions.  If someone did walk in while I was watching Will and Grace, I quickly changed the channel.

For me, my High School years were not the happiest years of my life.  I still have nightmares about being back there... even as a teacher, I have felt uncomfortable working in High School classrooms, remembering and feeling all to clearly the anxiety I felt those four years I was in school.

Life got so much better in college.  It offered a more diverse group of students and faculty where young adults felt more comfortable to openly express who they were.  I met some great friends and began to embrace who I was as a gift, not a curse... and delved into my major (History) where I was able to learn about societal attitudes towards gays and lesbians over the centuries.  The sense of isolation began to melt away as I met new people and learned new ideas beyond the standard history, sociology and psychology of the High School classroom.

My faith and sexual orientation took a bit longer to reconcile, and I have written about it here in my blogs in earlier entries.  One night, I felt so bogged down by all the scripture verses that were being thrown at me, and again I began to pray.  I asked God to speak to me, and make His message clear.  Was I being sinful for following through with the strong feelings I had had my whole life?  I turned on the tv and began flipping through the channels.  I stumbled across a movie called Door to Door about a salesman in the 50's who builds a successful career despite his physical handicap. In one scene, the salesman's young, fundamentalist female assistant finally realizes that two men on the sales route aren't just old roommates, but partners.  When she realizes this, she shakes her head in disgust, saying how wrong it was, and against the Bible.  The salesman said something to her that I will never forget.  "God doesn't make mistakes... He knows what He is doing."  There it was.. my answer.

In my 10 years since High School, I have grown so much stronger, mentally and spiritually.  I'm no longer afraid to be myself, and have long given up changing pronouns or omitting things that "others" might find offensive.  I speak about my feelings and experiences just as any heterosexual person would.  I find great spiritual nourishment in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, just as I always have.. though now I am an advocate of our richer and more traditional style liturgy, choosing to focus on the prayer life of the Church (after all, there is nothing anti-gay in the Mass) rather than the politics of the Church.  God is the judge of all, not any one person - religious official or otherwise.

I earned my bachelor's degree in History, doing a lot of private studying on gay and lesbian topics, which I continue to read about independently.  I recently earned my Masters degree in Social Studies Education, and do my best as a substitute teacher to correct students when they comment "that's so gay", and take a moment to share with them how wrong it is to put down a whole group of people so blindly.  I try to share my views and opinions with fellow educators who teach full time to help them be aware of gay bullying in their classrooms, and have been encouraged to see the number of faculty and staff who take the time to let their students know that such comments are not acceptable.

It's not an easy path, but it does get easier.  There's nothing wrong with you.. nothing that needs to be "fixed".  You're beautiful just the way you are.  We are all made in the image and likeness of God.. and He does not make mistakes.

Know that you are loved - gay or straight - you are loved.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Memorias Defunctorum

"Memorias Defunctorum" - Remember the Dead.


The month of October brings with it all sorts of creepy symbolism that to our 21st century mind is nothing more than indulging in our love of horror films.  In actuality, the symbolism of tombstones, skeletons and ghosts goes back to the practice of remembering our deceased brothers and sisters... and a reminder to ourselves that we too will die.


To read an earlier post I made giving a brief history of Halloween, click here.


Putting up the Halloween decorations, I kept thinking of my maternal Grandmother, who used to take my older brother and I to the local Hills department store every October for their annual "pumpkin hunt".  They would scatter piles of hay, and hide little plastic pumpkins within the hay... containing candy... and even a few with certificates for store merchandise.  It was like the Halloween version of an egg hunt.  My brother and I loved this annual tradition, and it still makes me smile thinking of going there with Grams -- then off to McDonald's for lunch -- a Happy Meal served in a plastic Halloween bucket.  Anyone remember those?


Thinking so much of Grams, I lit a candle in her honor and for the repose of her soul.  Doing this made me think of another tradition from my youth, this one coming from my first grade teacher, Sister M. Dorothy F.S.S.J.


In my former parish of St. Joe's (now closed), the founding pastor of the parish was given the honor of being buried in front of the Church he helped to build.  Every so often, Sister would take us on "field trips" to the grave site to pray for Father. 


In such a sterile world where we don't "like" to think of death, it seems like an odd custom.  Sister Dorothy was from a different school of thought however, one that encouraged the living to remember those who had gone before us.. to pray for "the souls of the faithful departed".


I decided to light another candle.  This one for the souls who had no one left on Earth to remember them.  This is another aspect of the Catholic faith that has been increasingly swept under the carpet.  It's a beautiful sentiment, to take time to remember those who perhaps have no one left to carry on their memories.  Remember praying for the poor souls in Purgatory??  Yea.. that's becoming "obsolete" too.  


Ironic.. so many "religion" classes teach nothing more about our faith than "community"... yet we have forgotten to include those community members who have gone before us.


While I have certainly hopped on my religion soap box, again lamenting the laziness and secularist tendencies of modern day Catholics.. I assure you there is a reason for my rant.


Regardless of your own spiritual belief system, there are people out there who volunteer to "adopt a gave" at their local cemeteries.  I think this is an awesome practice of human compassion and historical preservation.
  
Every time I go to a cemetery I find a grave stone that is being overwhelmed by vegetation and un-cared for.  Perhaps that person was the last of their family, perhaps no one else lives in the area, or perhaps the grave is so old, there is no one left to remember that person.  Pick a grave or two and help take care of it if you have noticed no one else is doing so.  Give respect once again to the name of the person on the marker.


One day it will be our turn - who will remember us?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Katharine Hepburn

Recently I have been re-reading a biography of actress Katharine Hepburn entitled, Kate Remembered.  It is a personal reflection on the star's life by a writer who became her close friend in the later years of her life -- and though considered a biography, it's written in the form of an informal story or narrative about the time he spent with this great actress.

For me, it's rare to read a book more than once, but it's been a few years since I've read this work, and I enjoyed it so much the first time around.  Reading it is almost like spending time with Katharine Hepburn herself.  Something I wish I had had the chance to do.. along with so many of her fans across the globe I'm sure.

I haven't seen all of Miss. Hepburn's films, only those genres that interested me: historical or romantic comedy.  Desk Set, one of her less popular films is bar far my favorite.  The friendly office atmosphere and quick whit of the co-workers was always the type of setting I wanted to work within professionally... and I just fell in love with character of Bunny Watson - head of the reference department.

And who could forget such films as Woman of the Year, Adam's Rib, Bringing up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter and On Golden Pond?  Perhaps I have seen quite a few of her movies.. but there are plenty more out there.

What I have always loved about Miss. Hepburn was her down to Earth, no non-sense attitude towards life.  Though she and I would certainly have disagreed on topics of politics, I admired her independence and her forcefulness to live life as she wanted without letting people tell her she "can't" do something.  When told she "couldn't" do this or that because she was a woman.. her reply was usually: "watch me."

When I watch Katharine Hepburn on the screen or listen to the few interviews she did later in her life, I am often reminded of my paternal Grandmother.  Like the biographer and Miss. Hepburn, I did not get to really know my Grandmother until the later years of her life.. in this case, the last three years of them.  This time of course I remember fondly and treasure every moment with her.

My Grandmother was fiercely independent.. not one to let other tell her what to do and what to say.  She spoke her mind (at least in the time I knew her) and lived life the way she saw fit.  I always said there was a "star quality" about my Grandma... not that she was perhaps movie star material.. but she had the quality to be more.  Sadly, she lived in a time when most women were pressured to settle down and raise a family, and as loving as she was, I don't think she was quite the "family woman" in the sense that society dictated at the time.

Grandma forged ahead with a professional career as a well respected nurse, while still being wife, mother and grandmother.  She took care of herself and those she loved.. and managed to do much of it.... at least later in life.. on her own terms.

Katharine Hepburn - and even my Grandmother - came from a generation when people still had ideals, dreams and ambitions.. and were not afraid to WORK for them.  My generation seems content to sit here and expect things to be handed to us (note I do use the term "US" putting myself into this category).  Now more than ever we need examples of people like Miss. Hepburn who weren't afraid to live life and work for success. -- Though, as a quote of Miss. Hepburn's that I often remember... again, very meaningful to my generation who wants it all NOW: "You can't have everything.  Any idiot knows that."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Talk Talk Talk!

*Random topic* :)

I am no sociologist by an definition of the term.. just a casual people watcher.  It's fun to watch people interact - family, friends, strangers.. couples, individuals... all offer a glimpse into the sea of humanity.

I've been spending time with a diverse group of friends lately, as well as my usual encounters with friends at work.  It's so neat to see the varied dynamics that exist between these various social networks of mine.  Take my friend Collin for example.  He and I can gab on the phone for what sometimes turns into an hour.. when perhaps neither one of us has any particular story in mind to discuss when making the call.  For some, the conversation just flows... my maternal grandmother and I were like this as well.  The phone call would start with "how are you?"... and we'd end up chatting about nothing and everything.

With others, the conversations can be deep discussions about concerns, dreams and life stories... where moments of quiet are not awkward silences, but a time for reflection and processing.  Sometimes the physical presence of the other person is all that is needed for communication.

The next time you're out in a crowd of people, or simply hanging out with your bff... take note of the communication occurring around you.  You might be amazed at how each individual, each situation, each group has their own subtle form of communication.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Did it!!!!

I got an e-mail yesterday from my graduate adviser that my masters portfolio project passed... which means my degree program is complete.  I have graduated from UB's Graduate School of Education!!!

It's odd not having a ceremony to attend... or wear the cap and gown.  The ceremonies can be tediously long, but they give a sense of completion - of finalization to the long journey a person has traveled.  I opted not to attend the commencement this past May since I still had the big project to do.. and it wouldn't have felt right to go through the pomp and circumstance only to go home after and do homework.  Still... my diploma should be sent out in September.

I'm still getting used to the idea of not having homework to do.  This is the first summer in a long time that I haven't been taking classes, and at UB, classes resume for the fall semester in late August.  I'm trying to break back into the habit of reading for fun --- something that has not been possible for quite some time thanks to being overwhelmed with course readings and assignments.  Every time I pick up my book, I get the feeling that I should be doing something that's due for class some time soon.  Old habits are hard to break, but I will delight in breaking this one.

I have met some wonderful professors and instructors over my academic career.  Some of them have been wonderful mentors, friends and reminders of why I love teaching.  Without their patience, understanding and sensitivity, this road would have been a much harder one to travel.

I have to say... here in print.. where everyone can see... that I could not have come this far without the love and support of my family and close friends.  There were many many times when I felt overwhelmed by the work I was doing.  The light at the end of the tunnel seemed so far off for such a long time.  My family -- most especially my parents -- always had faith in me, and my good friends -- especially my Walmart co-workers and UB classmates -- were always there to cheer me on and boost my self esteem when it was so badly deflated.  I owe so many of you a debt of gratitude for your love and support.

The job market for teachers remains turbulent and it seems less and less likely that I will find a position before the start of this school year.  So... I am exploring other options for employment that might not include teaching.  As much as I love the career I worked so hard for, I can't magically make jobs appear, and it's time to be supporting myself and moving forward. There are no plans to go "back" to college for a new degree... I have enough debt from the bachelors and masters to last me quite a while... but perhaps my degrees will open up doors that I had not considered before.  Only God knows.

When I first enrolled in UB back in 2003, I sat on my patio late at night feeling so overwhelmed.  I never thought I'd get through that first semester, yet alone complete two degrees.  Everything seemed to be changing so fast, the work too hard, the campus too big.  I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.  But here I am... looking back.. and I can finally say: I did it!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

SimpleThings....

My Dad's Mom used to remind me in her dry/sarcastic way that "small things amuse small minds".  I'm going to have to disagree with that old cliche... some times it's the small things, or the simple things in life that can be pretty cool.

Some things that make me excited are admittedly odd.  I tend to see things in a different light than others.   One such thing is my obsession with using vintage technology (prior to the 1970's) in the everyday life of the twenty first century.  Combine this with my love of classic rotary phones and you have a nerd fest in progress.

Sharing a home with my parents, I also share the usage of our "landline".  Growing up, I would have never guessed that having a "house phone" would be considered optional -- but the wave of mobile phones has made the traditional land line telephones one option among many.  Personally, I do prefer the quality of calls made by land lines over cell phones... and appreciate the reliability and 911 tracking service that you can not get from digital and/or mobile phone service.  I'm also not a huge fan of using my cell phone for making long phone calls... especially when "out and about".  Seriously, do I need to be gabbing with someone while I'm grocery shopping at Wegmans??  If I hear one more person in the bathroom stall talking on their phone I may scream.  Leave me a voice mail.. I'll get back to you.

Cell phones are for Internet (when a computer is not available), texting, and quick phone calls when not at home.  Otherwise.. as my friends know.. I'm calling you from home.

Back to the telephone itself.  I am obsessed with vintage phones.. probably because I have always loved the story of how my grandparents first met.. and I also love the classic look, feel (many older phones are HEAVY) and sound of a classic phone... the zip of the dial and the sound of a real brass bell ringer that puts a cell ringtone to shame.  These workhorses of Ma Bell were built to do one job well.. and to do it for a life time.  I like to keep the tradition going.

Well.. some techno geek out there has helped to make it possible for young-fogeys like myself to keep our retro lifestyles alive.  Someone created a device that allows you to link any house phone to your cell phone via bluetooth!  When I read about it in an online forum I subscribe to, I hopped in the car, drove to Radioshak and bought this little gem.

For my birthday, my Mom bought me a Western Electric 500 telephone in mint green.... green has always been my favorite color.  It's been the phone next to my bed for a little over a month now, and I've loved using it.  While I make most my calls on it (my other living room phone being from the 1940s), my friends won't call me on the house phone.. since they never know who will answer.  It's easier for them to call me on the cell.. the little square that I detest holding up to me ear.  Now.. I have the best of both world. (and yes.. I stole the picture below from the Internet)

You pick up this 40+ year old phone and you will hear a dial tone.. and yes... the rotary dial will dial out (though you need the cell phone's key pad for * and #).  Best of all, when someone calls my cell, and it is linked to the rotary phone.. that great brass ringer goes off instead of hearing the pre-recorded "vintage telephone" ringtone I downloaded years ago.

See.. only I would be excited about this!

So yes, I found another way to preserve a piece of the past while making it relevant to the present.  I was worried about how well the quality would be since the device is a bluetooth after all (which are known for being sketchy)... but the sound quality is EXCELLENT.

Who's giddy with geekish excitement?  That would be me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tempus Fugit!

Time does indeed fly.  I can't believe it's August already!!  Soon, my favorite season of the year will be here... FALL!!  Crisp air, hay rides, apple cider, pumpkins, Halloween.... all right around the corner.

For those that haven't yet heard, I did indeed interview for a year long term teaching position at the middle school I have been subbing at over the past school year.  I thought the interview went very well.. I was comfortable, my answers were all well thought out.  I did not make it to a second interview however.  It was none-the-less a learning experience.. I can now be a little more comfortable and prepared for any other future interviews -- but I am disappointed.  This position was the only real hope I had at getting a job away from retail in the near future.. my only real hope of moving forward with my life... and in a school environment I loved and had made friends in.  I just keep telling myself it was not my time.  Patience was always a virtue I lacked!

I've been picking up more hours at the retail hell I've been employed at for the past 9 1/2 years.  Slowly, I've been paying money towards bills that I have accumulated... looking forward to operating in the black for a change, and starting to pay off my massive amounts of student loans.  The idea of having a savings account again is a nice thought.

Since the likely hood of finding a full time teaching position for the fall is slim, I debated doing the retail gig full time.  Even working over 30 hours a week (not that I would be guaranteed that many hours), I'd still be making under $20,000 a year.  That wouldn't help me much in my goal to get an apartment of my own.  Sigh....

Anyway... I just figured it was time for me to update this blog and let people in cyberspace know I am still alive.  I'm still puttering around, searching for a new career, eagerly awaiting the results of my masters portfolio project so I can say I am done with grad school.  Though I have been frustrated with the current job situation, my heart is gladdened by the many family and friends in my life who let me know daily that I am loved.  Sometimes we need to look at what we do have, instead of what we don't have.  A lesson I am trying hard to learn.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Another year older...

That's right.. yesterday my biological odometer turned over yet another number.  I'm now 28.  Lord have mercy I'm getting old!

I had a wonderful day with family and friends.  I woke up to what seemed like a million greetings on facebook wishing me a "Happy Birthday".  I think Facebook is helping to put greeting card companies out of business... since we can now share greetings instantly over the web.

I LOVE getting the facebook and text message greetings.  Just like on Christmas morning... the whole ride home from Mass my phone will be chiming with text messages of warm wishes.  It's a cool feeling to get so many at once, and realize just how many people are in your life.. and care.  :)

My good friend Bob takes me out to lunch or dinner every year.  This year I decided I wanted a WNY staple, beef on weck.  To me, there was only one place to go for that.. Schwabl's in West Seneca.  Yes, it's a bit of a drive for me, but it's worth it.  The food was amazing and we had a good time.

After lunch, the two of us drove to Allen Town to stop at Q for a drink... or two.. or three.  We met two of our friends there and laughed over some wine... and whatever "summery" concoction Bob was drinking.

Pizza and wings were then dished out at my brother and sister in law's home... along with a birthday cake and homemade coconut cream pie!! DROOOOOOOOL!!!  I LOVE coconut cream pie.  My sister-in-law's mother... who is so kind to me... baked it.  She is an amazing baker!!  It always seems as if I'm doing the baking for other people, so it was nice to have someone make something just for me.

I even got my own personal mini-birthday cake, baked by my friend Susan's 12 year old daughter, Olivia.  From what I understand, it was her first venture into the world of baking.  It was so cute.. and delicious!  She can also bake for me any time she wants.  Heck, I can have a whole baking staff now!

Now that I think about it... I don't want to know how many calories I consumed yesterday.  Haha!

I've always heard you shouldn't tell people what you wish for when you blow out your birthday candles, but I'll tell you as long as you promise to keep it a secret.  I wished for a new JOB.  One thing that is glaring in my mind when I reflect upon the last 10 years of my life is the lack of momentum my professional career has had.  I truly want to move forward with my life, have a stable income and get a place of my own (here in WNY if possible).  If I could have one wish.. that would be it.... and world peace and a boyfriend if the genie isn't too busy.

Friday, July 2, 2010

What's in a number?

Before telephones became the norm in all households, and prior to the need for area codes, phone numbers used exchanges so the operator knew where to connect the call.  For example, our phone number starts with 695.  Up the the 60's, our extension may have been OXford 5 --- the OX corresponding to 69 and the term OXford telling the operator where to connect the call (should you need the operator's assistance).

Why this entry about telephone numbers?  It's because of a telephone number that my Grandparents met... and fast forward decades later... I came into existence.

My mother's parents both lived in small towns in Pennsylvania around the Wilkes Barre area.  Most families worked in the coal mines which didn't give much money for luxuries.. such as having a telephone line.  My Grandmother's family was one of the few in her neighborhood to have a telephone since it was needed to conduct business in her parent's "Mom and Pop" store which they operated in the front of their home.

My grandmother remembered her neighbors giving out the store's telephone number (my grandmother's home phone number) to friends.  The call would come to my grandma's house.. and she would have to hunt down the party for whom the call was intended so they could come use the phone.  She always hated that.

Anyway.....

One day, Grams and her friend Dorothy were out and about and a man started hitting on Dorothy.  My Grandmother could tell Dorothy wasn't interested... but couldn't resist antagonizing this poor fellow further.  The man asked Dorothy if she had a phone so he could give her a call some time... before Dorothy could tell the guy off, Grams yelled out: "VAlley 2-2047!".  She told Dorothy she'd be happy to bring her to the phone should the guy call her.  Dorothy was not amused... Grams was hysterical with laughter. 

The romance between Dorothy and this fellow never materialized, but this man thought Grandma was so kind to help him out that he told his buddy Vince about her.  Soon, Grandma got a call from this Vince asking her out on a date.

Yes.. it was my Grandfather.  A star football player for his High School, good looking, though rather shy and reserved.. he took my Grandmother out on a blind date.  She used to tell me she never understood what he would see in her... he was so handsome and could have any girl he wanted.

After the date though, Grams didn't hear from him again... not for an entire year.  Talk about playing hard to get!  On New Year's Eve Gramps was sitting around and said to himself "I wonder what Helen is up to" and gave her a call.

Not one to sit around waiting for the phone to ring... Grams was out having a good time with her friends.  My grandfather called and woke up my Great-grandmother who spoke little to no English.  He would have to try again.

As you may have guessed he got a hold of her, they started dating regularly... and the rest was history.  All thanks to a simple telephone number.. and my grandma being a smart ass.  Because of this story I have a great affinity for that number VA2-2047.  Without it, my grandparents might not have met.. and I might never have been born.

In light of the story though, perhaps I should give the guys a meet a year to call me back before giving up on them???  Nah... I'll find a football player of my own.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Bucket List

It's exactly what the title implies... like the movie... it's a list of things I'd like to do before I "kick the bucket".

1. Spend more time in the Manhattan area: Brooklyn, Liberty Island, Coney Island (what's left of it), Greenwich Village.. etc.
2. Visit Chicago and make a pilgrimage to Optimo Hatters (and if finances permit at the time.. buy a hat)
3. See the ocean in person
4. Take a trip on a train
5. Visit the Vatican
6. Attend a Papal Mass
7. Learn to drive stick shift
8. Drive a classic car (pre-1957) -- hence wanting to learn to drive a stick shift
9. Own my own home
10. Get "married" (for lack of better term)
11. Visit Ireland
12. Visit Germany
13. Go to Hollywood
14. Learn to sew
15. Take a trans-Atlantic cruise


For now... I think that's a good list.  Enough to keep me busy for a while at least.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Getting into shape

I've been attempting to workout more in hopes of slimming down a bit... I'm still trying to lose my "winter weight" from two years ago!! HAHA!

I am in love with the elliptical machine we have. It burns so many more calories than using the treadmill or just going for a walk. I try to rock out for about a half hour on the elliptical, and doing a few reps of push-ups (30 per rep) throughout the day to help out my arms. Plus, this cooler night weather has made for some nice mile long walks.. just for the hell of it.

A few of my friends have encouraged me to join a gym. That would never happen. I could use UB's gym for free since I am still a student... but why bother? I have the equipment here at the house, so why travel? Besides, if I actually had to drive somewhere to get a workout in, it just wouldn't happen. I'm much too lazy to actually drive somewhere to workout.. and who needs all those people starring at me? I've got too much jiggling going on... I don't want to be responsible for making people sick.

I keep reminding myself, I lost 125 pounds a few years ago by just eating better and walking a lot. I went from 305 pounds and a 52 waist down to 180 pounds and a 32 waist in about 2 years.. just from diet and exercise. I've gained about 40 pounds back, but I'm aiming to lose 20... that's the goal.. that's the dream. I looked sickly at 180 (or so people kept telling me)... I looked better at 200. Right now? -- I look fluffy.

My problem seems to be I don't have the energy or motivation I had back in 2004. I think part of the motivation back then was me trying to impress a guy I was head over heels for. He only liked uber-skinny guys... and yes, I proudly used the word "uber". I beat the shit out of myself to try and impress him. What a waste of time. lol -- Good life lesson learned, bad experience. Live - learn - move on.

I always have the episode from The Golden Girls in the back of my head when I go to workout.. the one where the girls join a gym to lose some extra pounds. This quote is priceless: "I just want to lose enough to fit into my summer wardrobe" - "My winter wardrobe" - "My bathrobe." The exercise instructor thinks she can make a quick buck by selling the girls all their exercise apparel... jogging suits, head bands, wrist bands... leg warmer... When Dorothy questions the need for leg warmers, the instructor asks what they are currently using to keep their thighs warm. Dorothy's response: "FRICTION, that's why we're here!" So classic.

Anyway, I guess I have procrastinated long enough... time to get my ass in gear and burn some calories. -- Then reward myself with a huge bowl of ice cream. heeheee.. just kidding... maybe.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy Flag Day!


I didn't even realize it was Flag Day until I got to work this evening and looked at the calendar. A few years back, I used to wear a stars and stripes top hat to work to celebrate the day... since I was usually out of town for the 4th of July. I tried my best to be patriotic. My growing annoyance with customers however has since dampened my celebratory spirit.

I remember Flag Day fondly from my grade school days.. especially while I was still at St. Joe's (grades K-5). Flag Day was always acknowledged. At the end of the day the school would assemble out front around the flag pole, and the statue of St. Joseph. We'd say a prayer for the country, recite the pledge, and sing some patriotic song... probably "America the Beautiful". Remember singing that after reciting the pledge each morning before classes? Maybe it was just us... or maybe it's an Elementary school thing?

I had a lot of school spirit when I was in grade school.. especially in my former parish of St. Joe's. I loved being out there with the whole school around the flag pole.. my heart swelling with pride for my school and my country. Flag Day was also exciting because you knew there were only a handful of days left before summer vacation... so maybe it wasn't all school spirit and patriotic pride after all. Maybe I just wanted to go on summer vacation. :)

Anyway.. Happy Flag Day!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pride Month!

President Obama has proclaimed the month of June (2010) to be LGBT Pride month. This is a pretty significant gesture.. at least in my book. It shows that the president does indeed respect the LGBT population, and stands with us in our efforts to gain equal rights.

I think the significance of a having a black president making the proclamation is even more striking. Only 5 decades ago, African Americans were still segregated in some areas of the United States, as well as being denied many rights under the law. It wasn't until the mid 1960's when then president, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed the Civil Rights Law into effect that the flood gates of legal acceptance could be opened. As we all know however, social acceptance and tolerance takes a little more time.

President Obama, in this act, is at least acknowledging the struggle of so many LGBT persons who are still denied some of the most basic of civil rights, as well as under go ridicule and persecution for being born different.

I attended Buffalo's annual Gay Pride parade down Elmwood Avenue, ending at Bidwell Park. The parade itself is rather lame... My friends and I kept joking that we don't really use "floats" like in most parades... we decorate vans and trucks and drive them down the street. But still.. it's pretty cool to see such a large turn out of people, both walking in the parade and watching from the side lines.

The week leading up to Sunday was very sunny and hot... Sunday morning we got rain and colder temps. Just our luck. We felt like we were back in October.. which would be nice... if it were Fall, not summer. Thankfully, the rain stopped before the parade and held out the rest of the day. I of course ended up carrying around my stupid umbrella just in case the rain returned (it stayed pretty cloudy most of the day)... since yours truly has an aversion to getting soaked... and of course, my straw hats do not fare well when wet. I guess I'm a high maintenance homo after all?

Despite the weather.. there was a great turn out. I met up with my good friend Collin and a visitor from Rochester whom Colllin had met the night before. Rochester Ron and I hit it off quickly... both being substitute teachers and Social Studies certified. Our odd sense of humor helped too. :) You can see the three of us in the picture.

I got to meet up with a lot of old friends and make new friends throughout the day. In the past, I have always left the park around 3pm (the parade started at 1pm)... after making my rounds and saying "hello". This year, Collin's neighbor (who lives within walking distance of the festivities) had an open house with food and drinks. We wandered over there for some good eats, and more new people to meet.

Thinking I was headed home after our late lunch... we were persuaded to make our ways to one of the local bars for a drink or two. Now THAT was fun.... For those who enjoy people watching.. head to a gay bar sometime and find a good seat. You never know who or what you will see.

Fast forward to the end of the night and getting home at 10pm. We were all exhausted by the time we left.. but in a good way. To me, that is what the pride celebrations are all about. Throughout the year, many of us may feel alone and isolated... wandering around the world labeled as "other". But during celebrations like this, we are able to get together, stand up and be counted. There are men and women present from all backgrounds, age groups, nationalities and occupations. While God, in His infinite wisdom, may have made us different from the status quo.. we remind ourselves that life is not always black and white ONLY.. but rather a mixture of all the colors of the rainbow. :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tweet!

I've always considered myself an animal lover... but when it comes to pets, I'm definitely a dog person. I had a golden retriever named Toby, for 13 years... whom I just adored... He was the PERFECT dog, and I miss him dearly. Cats however... creep me out. I'm NOT a cat person.

I also have a great love for birds... having adopted the owl as my personal symbol. For the past 9 years, I have taken care of our pet parakeet, Tiki. She started off as my younger sister's pet, but when the novelty of having a bird wore off, I had to step up to the plate to care for this living creature that now depended on us for her well being. We've bonded.. and I just love her.

Even though I am the primary care taker of Tiki, she still resides in my sister's bedroom. I would love to keep her in my bedroom or living room, but there really isn't much space for her, the lighting is poor (birds will get depressed without good sunlight), and it gets very cold here in the winter. Occasionally though, I'll bring Tiki down in her cage and sit her on the ledge in front of my living room window. I'd done this a few times... but yesterday turned out to be rather different than other times.

It had been a nice day weather wise, so we had the windows opened. I brought Tiki downstairs, and set her cage on the ledge in front of my living room window.. letting her look out at the other birds. As long as there isn’t a strong breeze, I don’t mind her being there for a little while since there is a screen to protect her from bugs (we get a lot of wasps because of the roses outside my window).

So.. I went into my bedroom to tinker on the computer. After a while, I hear an awkward sound like a baby whining. I ignored it for a little bit.. but it kept up.. and it sounded close… like the baby/child was hurt. I went into the living room to look out the window… and there… sitting on the outside ledge of the window is a big orange CAT. It was making these odd sounds to Tiki.. who was just sitting there in her cage looking at this thing like it was on crack. I gasped at the sight of this cat inches away from Tiki…. The cat heard me.. and took off. Good thing too… I would have beat it for messing with my bird.


Needles to say, I will not be leaving Tiki’s cage in front of that window un-attended any longer… and I will keep a super-soaker handy in case Mr. Alley Cat comes back.


This incident did not help the cat cause in my opinion.. in fact.. I dislike them even more than I did before. -- And now that she has seen one, I think Tiki dislikes them too!



Thursday, June 3, 2010

In Memoriam


Today, we lost yet another of our Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan. McClanahan played the feisty, southern, man-crazed harlot on the hit 80's tv series, Golden Girls.

I grew up absolutely loving this show, and have watched it continuously throughout the years. It's hard to believe that these women.. who were so much apart of our lives through television... are now gone... with the exception of the endearing Betty White.

There was an episode where the "girls" make a pact to stay together throughout their old age so no one has to live a life of isolation and loneliness... as so often happens to the elderly who are forgotten. There is a line, ironically said by Rose (played by Betty White), "What happens when there is only one of us left?" Thankfully.. Betty seems to be doing rather well for herself -- and as she pushes 90, she is tackling yet another sitcom to be shown on TVLand. She may be old, but she is far from forgotten.

It didn't take long for a reunion in Heaven between this trio of stars: Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur and now Rue McClanahan... who all died within the past two years. I can only imagine they are up there on Heaven's lanai... talking about Blanche's latest love affair.

Well Rue, "thank you for being a friend". Rest in Peace!